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Q and A on MDG on Education in Indonesia

The second goal of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) is to provide basic education for all. Where is Indonesia in this regard?
Indonesia appears to have done better at reaching this goal. Across the country, about 94.7 per cent of children are enrolled in primary schools. The number of enrollment is lower in less developed and remote regions. For example, in Central Kalimantan, about 96 per cent of the children attend primary school, compared to 78 per cent in Papua.

The number of kids in junior secondary education has also been steadily on the rise, and there is 99 per cent literacy rate for people aged 15 through 24. But the quality of the literacy level may not be that high, because the reading and writing test implemented by the Social-Economic National Survey (Susenas) is very simple. 

Is this considered a success?
Unfortunately, we have not entirely succeeded in giving children complete basic education, which is the goal of the MDGs. Many children have to repeat their grades or quit school entirely.

Currently, about 9 per cent of children have to repeat another year of 1st grade. At every grade of primary school, 5 per cent of kids drop out. In 2004/2005, only 77 per cent of the children actually made it to 6th grade, and out of this only 75 per cent eventually graduated. So a fourth of Indonesian children never finish primary school.

What about enrollment in secondary education?
The government aims to implement the nine-year school compulsory for all children. This comprises six years of primary and three years of secondary education. This target is actually higher than the MDGs’ global target of 6 years.

But studies show that only 67 per cent of the children currently enroll in junior high school. The goal was to be achieved by 2009, but Indonesia needs a huge leap to get there.

Why do kids drop out of school?
Some of them quit school because their parents need them to work, others because their family cannot afford to send them to school. About a third of the poorest families find it hard to pay for tuitions and other costs such as uniforms, books, transport and meal.

In some cases, the schools are not seen as giving something of values to the children, by not providing books or adequate facilities. Less than half of the existing primary schools have classrooms deemed sufficient by the National Education Ministry.

Do we need more teachers?
Yes and no. Actually, we have enough teachers in primary level education. In many schools, the ratio is one teacher for 19 students. But many remote areas are in shortage of teachers.

Meanwhile even in big cities, many teachers spend too much time away from the classrooms to earn some extra money. In 2004, a survey showed that a fifth of the teachers in over 2,000 schools often skip work.

It is better to have smaller number of teachers who are paid well and who spend much of their time in class.

If the prevailing problem is poverty, then all we can do is wait until the families earn more money?

Not necessarily. The government needs to spend more money on education so that parents can send their kids to school.
Right now local administrations, on regency level is responsible for two-third of spending on education. They spend almost all of it on teacher’s salaries.

The central government provides the funds for new school buildings and classroom and gives scholarship for the poorest students. After slashing fuel subsidy in 2005, it has been disbursing School Operational Assistance (BOS) to children, amounting to US$25 per kid per year in primary school, and US$35 per kid per year in junior high. The money is given to schools so that students do not have to pay tuition.

The funds made up a quarter of the 2006 state budget on education. And although there were some problems making sure it went to the right school, it has had positive impact in school funding.

Excerpts from: Let’s Speak Out for MDGs



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